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A Brief History of Beacon Charter High School

In September 2003, Beacon Charter High School for the Arts became Rhode Island's tenth charter school. Paul (Jack) Lawhead and Paul Collette, two retired teachers from Woonsocket High School, developed this original concept of combining the arts and quality education. They had worked tirelessly for thirty years to make their dream a reality.

Sponsored by the Northern Rhode Island Council of the Arts, Beacon began at the former George Street School in Woonsocket with 49 students in grades 9 and 10. The following year, 2004-2005, the school added 11th grade and increased enrollment to 111.

Concerns regarding the school's financial status caused the Department of Education to close Beacon the following spring. During the summer of 2005, hearings were held to determine Beacon's future. With the intervention of Johnson & Wales University, the hiring of Robert Pilkington, and the efforts of then City Council President Leo Fontaine, Beacon was saved. Since 2005-2006, the school has ended each year with a surplus.

In 2006, Beacon celebrated its first graduating class of 21 students. In October of that year, the school relocated to its present location, occupying the first two floors of 320 Main Street. For each of the next two years, the school increased enrollment and added a floor. In September 2009, we fully occupied the facility and reached full enrollment of 225 students. That October, our juniors scored the highest of any district in the state on the NECAP Reading Test. The following year, Beacon outscored the state average on every NECAP assessment.

The entire Beacon community mourned the loss of our founder, Paul “Jack” Lawhead on December 21, 2009. Without his vision and passion, Beacon would not exist. His legacy lives on in the passion of every Beacon student artist.

During the summer of 2011, Beacon completed an important step in its development with the purchase of 320 Main Street. We began 2011-2012 as building owners, with a strong foundation of academic success and artistic achievement. As we look toward the future, we eagerly anticipate the renewal of our charter, the possibility of a major redesign of the first floor of our facility, our first ever reunion for members of the classes of 2006 and 2007 and the continued development of our superior faculty and staff.

  • Beacon History
  • Beacon History
  • Beacon History